Medical marijuana reforms stalled amidst stalemate

Michael Cole of Clairton, Pa., holds a Time magazine while waiting on line in downtown McKeesport to attend a Medical Marijuana Job Fair in 2017.

More than 50,000 people registered to get medical marijuana live in one of 29 rural counties that don’t have any medical marijuana dispensaries, according to data provided to CNHI by the Department of Health.

The department provided the information after being ordered to do so by the state Office of Open Records. The Department of Health initially refused to provide the data, saying it wouldn’t release the information in order to avoid violating patient privacy protections built into the state’s Medical Marijuana Law.

The Office of Open Records rejected the department’s arguments in July saying that aggregated data about the medical marijuana program wouldn’t violate any individual patient’s privacy.

“Finding the requested aggregated data to be confidential would lead to an absurd result. Under such a broad reading of confidentiality, information such as the total number of Pennsylvanians using the medical marijuana program would be confidential and disclosure of that figure could result in criminal sanctions. The OOR cannot conclude that this was the General Assembly’s intent,” Kyle Applegate, chief counsel for the Office of Open Records, wrote in the order directing the Department of Health to release the data.

Medical marijuana patients by county (PA)

County Number of medical marijuana patients Population Patients per 100,000 residents Number of dispensaries
Adams 6,854 103,852 6,600 1
Allegheny 63,910 1,250,578 5,110 10
Armstrong 2,723 65,558 4,154 0
Beaver 8,892 168,215 5,286 1
Bedford 3,029 47,577 6,367 0
Berks 18,873 428,849 4,401 3
Blair 7,129 122,822 5,804 3
Bradford 1,404 59,967 2,341 0
Bucks 32,759 646,538 5,067 4
Butler 8,272 193,763 4,269 6
Cambria 5,421 133,472 4,062 2
Cameron 336 4,547 7,389 0
Carbon 3,407 64,749 5,262 0
Centre 5,906 158,172 3,734 1
Chester 25,780 534,413 4,824 5
Clarion 1,470 37,241 3,947 0
Clearfield 5,976 80,562 7,418 1
Clinton 1,750 37,450 4,673 0
Columbia 3,256 64,727 5,030 1
Crawford 3,062 83,938 3,648 1
Cumberland 12,492 259,469 4,814 4
Dauphin 16,009 286,401 5,590 5
Delaware 24,559 576,830 4,258 4
Elk 1,838 30,990 5,931 0
Erie 13,619 270,876 5,028 2
Fayette 5,569 128,804 4,324 1
Forest 297 6,973 4,259 0
Franklin 6,808 155,932 4,366 2
Fulton 763 14,556 5,242 0
Greene 1,330 35,954 3,699 0
Huntingdon 2,174 44,092 4,931 0
Indiana 2,586 83,246 3,106 0
Jefferson 2,553 44,492 5,738 1
Juniata 820 23,509 3,488 0
Lackawanna 12,531 215,896 5,804 5
Lancaster 21,847 552,984 3,951 4
Lawrence 3,853 86,070 4,477 2
Lebanon 6,851 143,257 4,782 1
Lehigh 17,455 374,557 4,660 4
Luzerne 15,844 325,594 4,866 5
Lycoming 4,828 114,188 4,228 2
McKean 1,559 40,432 3,856 1
Mercer 3,588 110,652 3,243 1
Mifflin 1,826 46,143 3,957 0
Monroe 6,702 168,327 3,982 1
Montgomery 44,058 856,553 5,144 14
Montour 1,085 18,136 5,983 0
Northampton 14,905 312,951 4,763 4
Northumberland 4,622 91,647 5,043 1
Perry 2,108 45,842 4,598 0
Philadelphia 55,735 1,603,797 3,475 13
Pike 3,018 58,535 5,156 0
Potter 505 16,396 3,080 0
Schuylkiil 6,226 143,049 4,352 0
Snyder 1,433 39,736 3,606 1
Somerset 2,131 74,129 2,875 0
Sullivan 174 5,840 2,979 0
Susquehanna 1,831 38,434 4,764 0
Tioga 859 41,045 2,093 0
Union 1,384 42,681 3,243 0
Venango 2,262 50,454 4,483 0
Warren 1,723 38,587 4,465 0
Washington 10,034 209,349 4,793 1
Wayne 2,521 51,155 4,928 0
Westmoreland 15,805 354,663 4,456 4
Wyoming 1,713 26,069 6,571 0
York 22,694 456,438 4,972 5
PA 595,336 13,002,700 4,579 0

In western Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, with 63,910 medical marijuana patients, has 10 dispensaries.

BY REGION The Department of Health divided the state into six regions for the purposes of overseeing the medical marijuana program

  • In the Northwestern region, with 42,136 medical marijuana patients, six counties — Cameron, Clarion, Elk, Forest, Venango and Warren — don’t have any dispensaries.
  • In the North-Central Region, with 27,206 medical marijuana patients, seven counties have no dispensaries..
  • In the Northeastern Region, with 79,927 medical marijuana patients, five counties have no dispensaries — Carbon, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming.
  • In the Southwestern Region, with 126,677 medical marijuana patients, only four counties — Armstrong, Greene, Indiana and Somerset — don’t have dispensaries. There are 25 dispensaries in the other seven counties.
  • In the South-Central Region, with 89,557 medical marijuana patients, six counties — Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin and Perry counties — have no dispensaries.

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

 

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CNHI Harrisburg Bureau

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

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